Pillar Strength 101
Pillar strength is the foundation for all movement. It consists of your hip, core, and shoulder stability. Those three areas provide a center axis from which to move. Think of your body as a wheel. Your pillar is the hub and your limbs are the spokes. Core Performance also uses the term "pillar strength" to refer to one of the main components in workouts. For instance, you might do your warm-up (which we call "movement prep") and then move on to the pillar strength portion of your training session, or vice versa.
How Pillar Strength Works
It’s impossible to move your limbs efficiently and forcefully if they’re not attached to something solid and stable. That’s your pillar—all the muscles that connect your hips, torso, and shoulders. When these areas are properly aligned, you can transfer energy throughout your body more effectively, so you’ll produce more strength and power with less fatigue.
Without pillar strength, you will significantly increase the potential for injury in a chain reaction that starts with your lower back, descends all the way to your knees and ankles, and rises up to your neck, shoulders and elbows.
Here’s an example of energy transferring from the lower body up through the torso and upper body.
Why Pillar Strength is Unique
The reason we train body movements instead of body parts is because everything about the body’s engineering is connected. What happens to the big toe affects the knees, the hips, and ultimately the shoulders.
The muscular system is both complex and simple, a series of muscular and fascial bands that work seamlessly to produce efficient movement. Many workout programs do more damage than good by producing muscle imbalances and inefficient movement patterns that sabotage this highly coordinated operating system that we’re born with.
Body-building based workouts view the physique as a series of parts and most people tend to think of movement as starting from the limbs. If we reach out to grab something or step forward, we think of those motions as originating with the end result—we’ve reached out therefore we’ve used our arms.
But movement starts from the very center of the body, the core area of the torso. That’s why we refer to the torso as the pillar – it’s the structural center of movement and life. The way we maintain that pillar—its alignment and function—directly correlates to the health of our organs and rest of our bodies. Everything is inter-related.
We’re not here to bash body-building, but to emphasize the importance of reprogramming your body to function properly—as nature intended—and to continually become stronger.
Instead of looking at movements as coming out of the arms and legs, remember that perfect posture starts at the pillar. If you can master the following three elements of pillar strength—shoulder stability, core stability and hip stability—both working out and in everyday movement, you will go a long way toward a healthier life.
(Example: The move below requires tremendous stability throughout the pillar. The resistance will help you learn how to engage your pillar properly. Before trying this, you should be able to hold a lateral pillar bridge for 30 seconds.)
The Anti-Aging Effect of Pillar Strength
Remember the way that movement evolves in infants. They move on their backs until one day this action allows them to roll over, initializing the hip crossover movement. Soon they progress to crawling, standing and, finally, walking. With each step, they realize how to stabilize their bodies.
Aging reverses that process. Many people lose the ability to squat and maintain their balance, creating poor posture. Eventually, they lose the ability to stand, surrendering the fundamental movement patterns they developed as toddlers. But instead of conceding this as an unavoidable part of aging, look at getting older as a process of taking these movements to new levels.
By including pillar strength in your training program, you’ll take your body to the highest levels of performance and movement capabilities by challenging yourself to increase flexibility and stability, which will in turn put you farther and farther away from the regression of aging.
- Verstegen, Mark, and Pete Williams. Core Performance: The Revolutionary Workout Program to Transform Your Body and Your Life. Pennsylvania: Rodale Press, 2004.
- Verstegen, Mark, and Pete Williams. Core Performance Essentials: The Revolutionary Nutrition and Exercise Plan Adapted for Everyday Use. Pennsylvania: Rodale Press, 2006.